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Philippines out to regain stature as top seaweed exporter

Jasper Emmanuel Arcalas - The Philippine Star
Philippines out to regain stature as top seaweed exporter
The DA said it is considering increasing its support for the domestic production of seaweed, the second largest export earner in the aquaculture industry.

MANILA, Philippines — Boosting local seaweed output to regain the country’s stature as the world’s top exporter of the commodity would require expanding production areas by 85,000 hectares, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said.

The DA said it is considering increasing its support for the domestic production of seaweed, the second largest export earner in the aquaculture industry.

“We really need to support the industry. Indonesia has already surpassed our production… but we still have an unutilized area of 85,000 hectares. Until we reach that, we shouldn’t stop. If possible, we should accelerate the industry’s area expansion,” Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. said yesterday.

The DA noted that in 1990, the Philippines accounted for 80 percent of the world’s seaweed requirement while Indonesia only produced 10 percent. But since then, Indonesia has surpassed the Philippines in terms of seaweed production.

“That has since changed. Indonesia now produces five times more than the Philippines,” the DA said.

Citing industry leaders, Laurel said challenges faced by local seaweed production include limited support for the industry, lack of seedlings, logistical issues and even power supply problems. Laurel pointed out that there is a need to build more ports to easily transport raw materials to processing plants.

“While most seaweed production comes from Mindanao, processing facilities are in Cebu and Manila. The seaweed industry earned around $250 million even during the pandemic and generated export sales of $350 million in 2022,” the DA said.

Laurel added that if extra containers in Zamboanga would be available then logistical costs of shipping seaweed would be reduced.

“There are a lot of dry containers in Zamboanga. I think we can solve the logistics issue there if we coordinate with other industries. It’s a matter of convergence,” he said.

The agriculture chief said he would consider the seaweed industry’s proposal for the government to provide at least P1 billion in funding to address the problems currently hindering domestic seaweed producers. The proposed investment involves seedlings, implements, lines, floaters and counterweights.

“Once dried, the seaweed harvest would generate around 10,000 tons every year worth P550 million – a good return for a total investment of P1 billion for the industry, including large tissue culture laboratories, dryers, warehouses and training more technicians,” Laurel said.

The country produced 1.626 million metric tons of seaweed last year, about 5.3 percent higher than the 1.544 million metric tons it recorded in 2022, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.

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